After reading just about anything I could get my grubby little hands on about Ned Kelly, there are three things I would dearly love to know:
What really went on in that hut when Fitzy got hurt?
Did Ned really marry, and who was the mysterious bride?
And last but not least; was Ned planning a republic for North East Victoria, and whose been bloody hiding that proclamation from us all this time?
You’re now asking yourself; hang on, he’s listed four mysteries and he reckons he only wanted to know three! Well I reckon I’ve already solved the first one…
Yes Mr. Jones, I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with you. Through ten minutes of deep research (Keith McMenomy’s Illustrated History) I’ve come to the positive conclusion it is almost possibly and maybe probably around about I think June of 1855.
The penny dropped back in 2005 when I strained my keen bespectacled eyes over just one page of Keith’s book. A copy of Grace Kelly’s birth registration and John Kelly’s death registration unravelled the mystery before me.
I knew I had uncovered ground breaking information that would settle the question once and for all. At the 125th anniversary in Glenrowan I waited in ambush for Ian Jones. Waiting until he had finally finished his talk, I found my chance to pounce.
‘Ian! Ian! I’ve discovered conclusive ground breaking information that I think, maybe, or kind of possibly could be the answer to Ned’s real birth date’. There was a moment of silence as I squinted through my steamy spectacles into the piercing eyes of the Kelly guru and waited anxiously for his response. He quickly snatched the copy of his book that I thought I had tucked securely under my armpit and immediately proceeded to the page that tells you it was December of 1854. I was completely devastated. My ten minutes of research had taken a nose dive down the toilet. I conceded momentary defeat only for the sheer fact I needed his signature in my copy of A Short Life. Ah, but Mr. Jones, you may have won the battle, but the war continues.
I suppose you are now thinking what credentials does Crichton possess to take on Ian Jones? Well I will tell you. Many, many hours of watching C.S.I on the tele,that’s what. Watching carefully each week I have become proficient in the gathering of important but almost unnoticeable evidence. I will now proceed to explain to you the evidence I have meticulously scrutinised that will convince you Ned’s birthday is in June of 1855.
First of all I will need to list the birthdates of each of John Kelly’s children and their ages at the time John Kelly registered the birth of Grace on Tuesday the 3rd October 1865 at Campions general store. I will also note the childrens’ ages John gave to Campion. Noted on Grace Kelly’s Birth Registration 3rd of October 1865:
ANNE: NOVEMBER 1853 11 YEARS 11 MONTHS – Red\’s Estimate: 12 YEARS (correct)
EDWARD: JUNE 1855 10 YEARS 4 MONTHS – Red\’s Estimate: 10 YEARS (correct)
MARGARET: 15/06/1857 8 YEARS 4 MONTHS – Red\’s Estimate: 8 YEARS (correct)
JAMES: 31/07/1859 6 YEARS 3 MONTHS – Red\’s Estimate: 6 YEARS (correct)
DANIEL: 01/05/1861 4 YEARS 5 MONTHS – Red\’s Estimate: 4 YEARS (correct)
CATHERINE: 12/07/1863 2 YEARS 3 MONTHS – Red\’s Estimate: 2 YEARS (correct)
GRACE: 10/08/1865 2 MONTHS
Note: John has correctly given Ann’s age as being born in November 1853. If Ned was born in December 1854 that would make him 10 years and 10 months. Wouldn’t John have rounded off the year the same as he did with Ann? Their birthdays after all, would be only 1 month apart. And if Ned was born in December 1854 it would have been only 16 weeks after Ann’s birth that Ellen fell pregnant again with Ned. Now that’s not unusual, but looking at the births of all of their children, there is almost exactly two years to the month between them. With Ann and Edward there would have been only 13months. Another coincidence is that five out of seven of their children were born between May and August. If Ned was born in June, that would make six out of seven children born in the cooler months of the otherwise hot and unforgiving Australian year. Did Ellen know what she was doing when she fell pregnant? It’s certainly food for thought. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Ellen accompanied John with two month old Grace in her arms to Campions, and that is why the rounding of their childrens’ ages is so accurate.
Now let us go forward just fourteen months to Thursday the 27th of December 1866, just one day after boxing day. John Kelly has passed away with dropsy. On Saturday the 29th of December Ned takes responsibility as the now ‘man of the house’ and proceeds to Campion‘s store to register the death of his father. His mother is distraught at the loss of her husband and remains at home to care for the rest of her family as did the thirteen year old Ann who was more than capable of filling out a form. Did anyone accompany Ned on this morbid journey? we are not to know. When he arrives at Campions he is not only distressed by the death of his father but is most probably nervous at the prospect of having to supply important information and signing his father’s death registration. A daunting task for an adult let alone an eleven and a half year old boy. After he had given the necessary information, Ned signed the document with a flowing signature that would have made any adult proud. Now let us take a look at the information Ned supplied:
ANNE: 13 YEARS – Actual: 13 YEARS 01 MONTHS (correct)
EDWARD: 11 YEARS 6 MONTHS – Actual: 11 YEARS 6 MONTHS (correct)
MARGARET: 9 YEARS – Actual: 9 YEARS 06 MONTHS (correct)
JAMES: 7 YEARS – Actual: 7 YEARS 5 MONTHS (correct)
DANIEL: 5 YEARS – Actual: 5 YEARS 8 MONTHS (incorrect)
CATHERINE: 4 YEARS – Actual: 3 YEARS 6 MONTHS (incorrect)
GRACE: 1 YEAR 6 MONTHS – Actual: 1 YEAR 5 MONTHS (correct)
Now if I was giving Ned a maths examination he would get a pass. His only incorrect calculations on rounding off were on Daniel’s age by only two months. The other miscalculation was on Catherine. He missed rounding her age off by only one month. Not bad for a young bloke considering the circumstances don’t you think? Now don’t you think it strange also that Ned has rounded off all but his own age and baby Grace. When you look at the reason for including the six months on Grace’s age, of course he would. Grace is a seventeen month old baby. But the most important age is the one Edward recorded for himself. Remember, this young man now knows the responsibility passed on to him as the man of the house. He states he is eleven and a half, but if he had just turned twelve the same month he is filling out his father’s death registration, wouldn’t he know it? I believe Ned to be a rather bright boy. When I was a boy that age I was more inclined to put my age up rather than down. If birthdays weren’t thought of much in the pioneer days, John and Ellen Kelly must have referred to the birth certificates every year to work out the age of their children. I don’t think so!
Now let’s go to the other birth date of December 1854. Oral family tradition states Ned was born around the time of the Eureka uprising. In conversation once, I heard my mother mention to a friend of hers that my older brother was born just after the second world war. He was in fact born two years after. It’s amazing how as the years roll by, even two years can waste away to seconds. I’m sure if my brother had been born six months after the war it would have come out exactly the same: just after or around the time of. The other reason for setting Ned’s birth date around December 1854 is because of a school inspector by the name of G Wilson Brown. During an inspection he noted in his diary on the 30th of March 1865 that Ned was 10 years and 3 months of age. When quickly working out ages of all of the many students, a common mistake could have been made and that is to add months instead of subtracting. If G Wilson Brown had seen Ned’s birth date as June of 1855 he could have quite easily made the mistake of adding the three months from March to June. I’m not saying this is what happened, but it is a likely mistake.
Either way, we will never be 100% sure until Ned’s long lost birth registration is found. But I suppose we can all have our own opinions. That’s what makes this such a great country to live in. I believe June of 1855 sounds pretty good to me, but what do you think?
Footnote: When Ned and the boys rolled up at Glenrowan dressed in their new flash clothes and boots after an absence of seventeen months, why would they dress in such a fashion to take on the police? And why was Kate, Maggie and Catherine Lloyd dressed as if they were going to a very special party? Did Ned choose the month of June randomly to start his Republic, or was it simply an appropriate and memorable date for such an occasion? Food for thought!
Keep ya powder dry.